It was a big day at UBS Arena, as Robin Lehner made his long-awaited return to Long Island. Andy Greene’s 1,000th game was officially celebrated, and it was Cal Clutterbuck’s 900th NHL game. And the entertainment of the game itself matched the fanfare off the ice.
But the result wasn't the best for the New York Islanders. After getting their first lead of the afternoon with 2:20 left in regulation, they conceded a goal to the Vegas Golden Knights at six-on-five to send it to extra time, where the Islanders are cursed. They are now 0-3 in games that end in overtime and 0-3 in games that end in the shootout—yes, 0-6 past regulation.
Still, it’s a point.
Just before the game, we learned that Robin Salo and Matt Martin joined Mathew Barzal in COVID-19 protocol. Here’s how the Islanders lined up today.
#Isles corrected (sorry)— Andrew Gross (@AGrossNewsday) December 19, 2021
Aho was in line rushes, not Salo
Andy Greene received a tribute before puck drop to celebrate his 1,000th game played in the NHL, which he achieved at the end of the 13-game road trip.
And former Isles goalie Robin Lehner, who started for the Golden Knights, received a tribute during the first commercial break. He pointed to his Long Island tattoo.
Right after the first commercial break, Ilya Sorokin left a rebound off a tipped shot and Jonathan Marchessault patted home the rebound.
But the Islanders evened up the score quickly. They went on the power play because Oliver Wahlstrom got high-sticked by Reilly Smith. The Isles had a pretty strong power play overall and got a fortunate break when Brock Nelson’s attempted shot-pass to Anders Lee went off the skate of Brayden McNabb.
Other than the two goals, though, it was a pretty conservative period. As Butch Goring said, it was very “methodical.”
The makeshift top line of Lee, Jean-Gabriel Pageau, and Wahlstrom created a lot of pressure at the beginning of the period, in large part due to a smart play by Wahlstrom. It forced Vegas to ice it, and the next line, with Kieffer Bellows, Austin Czarnik, and Zach Parise did the same thing to Vegas. Four guys had been trapped on the ice for Vegas, including Alex Pietrangelo, who spent a full 3:00 on the ice, before the Golden Knights got a legal clear.
Lehner continued to play well, stopping both Czarnik from the slot and later Cal Clutterbuck on a backhand near the crease.
But Sorokin matched him when the Isles couldn’t clear. He was especially solid around the 5:30 mark; he made three straight saves on rebounds, looking like the star goalie the Islanders dreamed of when he came over.
Butchie jinxed Casey Cizikas on the face-off and blamed statistician Eric Hornick.
Just before the end of the period, Max Pacioretty hit Greene in the corner, and Bellows came over to chat. Pacioretty put Bellows in a headlock and ripped off his helmet, and then they square-danced a little, with Pacioretty landing a couple of punches before the linesmen broke it up. It was the first fight of Bellows’ career, and Cizikas patted Bellows on the back on his way down the tunnel as a sign of appreciation.
In the dying seconds, Zach Whitecloud broke up an odd-man rush that Anthony Beauvillier created with a nice defensive play. He nearly had Nelson trailing, but Whitecloud just got his stick blade on it.
Each team had strong pushes to start the third, but neither team hit the scoresheet until Vegas went on a man advantage.
Five minutes in, Zdeno Chara took a tripping penalty. On the power play, Evgenii Dadonov hit the crossbar from the bumper spot. Then, Chandler Stephenson and Shea Theodore played catch, and Theodore scored on a one-timer from the point; Sorokin might have been screened by Parise and Nicolas Roy.
Coming out of the commercial break, the fourth line with Ross Johnston drew a penalty. William Carrier tripped Cizikas, and the Isles went to the power play. It was pretty meek, other than an extremely dangerous chance for Pageau. Lehner just got a glove on it after Pageau was set up by Beauvillier and Parise.
But the Isles went right back to the power play because there were six Golden Knights on the ice. The Islanders generated more zone time on this man advantage, but not many chances, exactly. Mattias Janmark picked Noah Dobson’s pocket and had a breakaway, but he lost the puck when he got to Sorokin.
I won’t lie, it looked grim at that point. The Isles weren’t creating much offense, and it had that feel of the power plays depletes their energy rather than maximizes it.
But a failed breakaway attempt pass from Parise to Bellows led to Parise retrieving the puck and hitting Bellows at the blue line. Bellows lined up a screen and sneaked a shot through Lehner’s five-hole. Lehner was upset with himself for that one, and it’s hard to blame him; he probably should have had it. But in any event, the game was tied again.
Theodore blasted a shot just under the four-minute mark that Sorokin was able to blocker away, thankfully; no idea how he saw that one. And the Islanders got even more good fortune after that, but it took a little patience and a couple of tries.
On the rush, Dobson and Clutterbuck went back-and-forth, and Clutterbuck beat Lehner with a low shot. But Vegas challenged for offsides, and Cizikas clearly was offsides, so the goal came back.
That didn’t stop the Islanders, though. Wahlstrom did some great work along the boards to dig out a puck. He skated around the cage and found Pageau in front of the crease for a beautiful goal, and the Islanders led 3-2 with 2:20 to play.
PAAAAAAGGGGGGGEEEEEAAAAAUUUU pic.twitter.com/xHFXwFVqMj— New York Islanders (@NYIslanders) December 19, 2021
The madness didn’t end there; Vegas tied the game back up with Lehner pulled. Theodore wired yet another one-timer from the point. It might have Lee’s leg, but in any event, we had to go to overtime.
The Islanders controlled the puck in the first minute, but the only real chance came from Wahlstrom snapping a shot from the wing. Then, Vegas took control for a spell, but nothing came of it.
Vegas won a defensive zone faceoff but gave it right back to the Islanders. Dobson tried to go backdoor, but the puck squirted out. Beauvillier battled for the puck and got it back on net, but Lehner stopped that, too.
The rest of overtime was muted except for a rush chance for Pietrangelo in the final seconds that he shot wide.
Theodore deked and scored on the backhand. Beauvillier deked and had a wide-open net, but he hit the post. Sorokin stopped Marchessault, and Lehner stopped Wahlstrom. And then Roy won it for Vegas.
The Islanders were supposed to host the Montreal Canadiens tomorrow night at UBS Arena at 7:00 p.m. EST. But all cross-border travel has been suspended until after Christmas, so the Isles’ next game will be Thursday night when the Washington Capitals come to town.